Now we're well and truly into the new year, we've got our sights set on some of 2014's hottest global happenings. It's already shaping up to be a memorable twelve months: From Vancouver to Tokyo and Cape Town to Mumbai, our diaries are packed with parties, sporting events, performances and festivals. Here's our pick of what's on the horizon...
A dynamic Asian hub of culture, tradition and world-class art, Shanghai's calendar of events ranges from the niche to the mainstream. Head to the Shanghai International Circuit and feel the need for speed at the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in April, or at the other end of the spectrum, sip rare blends and view a Chinese, Japanese or Korean tea ceremony at the Shanghai International Tea Culture Festival in late May. Come September, you can admire the beautiful blooms and ancient Chinese-style folk arts at the Shanghai Osmanthus Festival in Guilin Park, and the following month the China Shanghai International Arts Festival returns for its 16th year, featuring both domestic and international artists. And later in the autumn, art buyers from around the world descend on the major Shanghai Art Fair (date tbc) for another round of deal-making.
You just can't beat summer in Vancouver: all that fresh air, gorgeous mountain scenery, and acres of green space, not to mention some beautiful beaches to lounge around on. Kick things off by sampling some of the amazing brews on offer at Vancouver Craft Beer Week in May, or indulge in a spot of literary homage at this summer's Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival, celebrating its 25th season with runs of A Midsummer Night's Dream and the Tempest. And the Keloha Music & Arts Festival returns to Kelowna's Waterfront Park in July (dates tbc) for another stella line-up of the biggest names in indie, rock and alternative music.
February's Tokyo Marathon is a huge public event – shutting down the streets of this city is no mean feat – but although it's too late to enter it now (phew) you can still soak up the fantastic atmosphere by watching from the sidelines with the local spectators: all 1.7 million of them.
For something altogether more sedate, visit in the springtime and enjoy the unique annual spectacle of the Ueno Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival). The sight of 600 Somei-yoshino (Yoshino cherry) trees in bloom is something to behold. Or wait right until the end of the year in December when the Chichibu Night Festival returns to Chichubu City, around 90 minutes from Tokyo. Featuring enormous, lantern-lit floats and a two and half hour firework display, it's considered one of the best festivals in all of Japan.
The ancient Hindu spring festival of Holi is something of a raucous affair in Delhi, which this year takes place on 17 March. A celebration of the beginning of the new season, it's a day of pure enjoyment and fun, with dried coloured powders, coloured waters and other solutions thrown at anyone and everyone, using any means possible. If you're in town your only choice is to join in, so be prepared! A bit later in the year in July, one of Delhi's most popular annual events takes place – the International Mango Festival which celebrates every aspect of this succulent tropical fruit. Look forward to mango eating competitions, mango carving, and tastings of some of the 1,100 varieties and rare species.
In the autumn, preparations begin for the other major Hindu festival, Diwali – otherwise known as the Festival of Lights – which runs for five days from 27 October. Streets are festooned with lanterns and streamers, families flock to shops and markets to take advantage of all the special Diwali offers, and the constant noise of fireworks – launched to ward off evil spirits – fills the air.
Mumbai's annual nine-day Kala Ghoda Arts Festival begins on the first Saturday in February and attracts more than 150,000 people to its 350 different events. Spanning the visual arts, music, dance, theatre, street performance, literature and children's workshops, the festival raises funds towards the upkeep of the beautiful heritage buildings of the Kala Ghoda Art District.
One of the biggest sporting events in Mumbai's social calendar takes place around the same time: the McDowell Indian Derby, held on the first Sunday in February at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse. An event that unites fans of both racing and fashion, it attracts the elite of Mumbai society who like to dress up in their finest for the day and have a little flutter.
There are plenty of reasons to make a beeline for Johannesburg this year, especially if your interests lie in the arts. From 6 - 16 March the FNB Dance Umbrella festival celebrates its 25th anniversary, with contemporary dance performances from local and international choreographers in a variety of venues across the city. A few months later in September, the two-week Joburg Arts Alive International Festival returns with another exciting line-up of talent in the fields of music, theatre, dance, poetry and the fine arts, confirming Jozi's position as the cultural capital of South Africa. And don't miss the Good Food & Wine Show in mid-November: it's the nation's premier food, wine and lifestyle event, attracting thousands of foodies, top chefs and winemakers.
It's a massive year for Cape Town, as the city revels in the spotlight as the World Design Capital for 2014. There's heaps of stuff going on but particular highlights include the 100% Design South Africa exhibition in April – the largest showcase of contemporary design in Africa; the Cape Town Street Food Festival in March which supports the culinary talents of local entrepreneurs; a showcase of the best local designers at Cape Town Fashion Week in August, and the Maboneng Township Arts Experience in March/April and Oct/Nov, which turns township homes into art galleries. And if you're in the city in late March you also have the Cape Town International Jazz Festival to look forward to: the fourth largest jazz festival in the world returns for its 15th outing with a free community concert in the lead-up to the event.
If you're more of a sporting type, consider the Cape Argus Cycle Tour in March – the largest individually timed cycle race in the world and ridden by our very own Sir Richard Branson last year. The race departs the city of Cape Town and follows a spectacular (and hilly) circular 109km route along the Cape Peninsula, returning to the city via the famous Chapman's Peak coast road.
Header photo © Yoshikazu Tokada
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.